Month: June 2013

R.I.P. – The Spectre

Me: “Firstly… I’m fine.”

The man who took my Spectre away: “There’s no fixing that, mate” (or words to that effect).

So… The Spectre will ride no more.  She now truly is a ghost.  But will live on in spirit.  etc etc.

There were finally some true Spring days – and I decided to make the most of it, albeit without the benefit of GPS navigation.  So – I’d pick a spot, put together some hand-written directions in my own bizarre evolving shorthand (trying to fit 20 or so turns/etc – to stay on country roads – onto an A6 piece of paper) – and head off.  On nearly every occasion, losing my way at some point – and just choosing some random spot for lunch instead.  This approach did, on at least one occasion, lead to my delight at finding some tiny country lane turn quickly to surprise when said lane turned into dirt/mud track, leading in turn to some heart-stopping moments of the Spectre reminding me it most certainly is NOT a dirt bike.  But made it through with only a little sideways movement, found space, U-turn, and find my way back to more appropriate terrain.

Anyway – two weekends of this, I think it was… with a couple of forays to the south, one to the west, and finally one to the east… the final trip.  Every time I’ve been east, I’ve been disappointed.  I’ve found it difficult to find country roads, all the lanes seem to head straight back to the A12.  Difficult to find country pubs, and therefore – food is usually rubbish.

Sunday – 2nd June – I headed east… no particular destination in mind this time, no hand-written directions.  This was mostly to avoid the need for the tank-bag… the Spectre just doesn’t look so pretty with some cheap tank-bag on her.  Headed out on the A12, and had a couple of attempts to find random country lanes… each time, leading directly back to A12.  Figured I might as well just push on, get to the coast – at least get some nice sea-side food/views.  Ended up in Felixstowe.  And remembered how terrible English seaside towns are.  It seems that the English realise that a coastal town should be fun… but because their beaches are terrible (coarse stones and freezing water) – feel the need to make up for it in other ways.  Horrible garish ways.  Amusement arcades, cheap run-down carnival rides, concrete boardwalks, and depressingly run-down pubs/hotels.  My first choice for a pub – the barmaid looked amazed at the concept of red wine.  Asked twice to make sure I didn’t mean rose.  I could see the bottles of red wine behind her – but figured I’d use the excuse to make my escape.  The second place – which had a family sitting inside watching sit-coms on the big-screen, rather than outside in the sun – had a barmaid who knew what red wine was… but she did feel obliged to go out the back and find/clean a glass for me especial.  Which I appreciated.  Oh – and did I mention the forecast perfectly clear skies for that day out east… did not appear?  Anyway – enough bashing Felixstowe and “The East”.

Because on my way back… I did manage to find some random roads, one nice enough country pub, etc.  And while the weather still wasn’t perfect… the day wasn’t a total waste.  Until I decided to get back onto the A12, and just get home so I could relax with dinner at my trusty local pub.

And then the Spectre turned rogue on me.  At around here – I was cruising along the right-hand lane; the official story is that I was travelling at 70mph – it’s very possible that I was going a little faster than that; when the Spectre just changed direction.  About 30 degrees to the left.  In that Streetview link above – I found myself heading straight for that white steel gate (and it was closed.  And green).  Not really knowing what was happening, or why – I remember trying a few things – gently seeing if turning the handlebars in the ‘right’ direction did anything.. nope…. gentle brakes… nowhere near enough time to slow to a stop before I was hitting something… and then this insanely optimistic image of slowing enough as I crossed three lanes of traffic that I could hit that driveway, up onto the grass on the far side, and either skidding out on that – or (in my ridiculously over-confident/optimistic mind) with extreme luck but zero grace, skidding a little on the grass – recovering, coming to a shaken, embarrassed, but safe stop on the sidewalk.

None of those things happened.  What did happen, I think, was that I couldn’t even direct the bike enough to miss the ‘near’ kerb… I think I just clipped the kerb on the near/left side of the driveway leading to the white(green) gate… at which point the Spectre and I parted ways.  The bike skidding across the driveway, up onto the sidewalk, and I think maybe hitting the lamp post?  And me hitting the ground (possibly with the Spectre landing on me at first… only thing I can think of which explains some of my injuries) – and then skidding/tumbling along the very side of the road… ending up against the kerb on the far/right side of the driveway.

At which point, I rolled onto my back, swore a little, groaned a little, then started figuring out what I could and couldn’t move.  Resulting in thumbs up for everything.  Lay there – trying to get my breathe back – but people had already screeched to a halt, and good samaritan bystanders were rushing to my rescue.  To immediately try pulling my helmet off, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t the ‘correct’ thing to do… but as I knew by this time I was in one piece, I helped them with that.  And sat, then eventually stood, in the midst of a small crowd of very frightened and helpful people.  Not one of which I ended up with contact details for… so I can’t thank them, but I did appreciate it all very much.  I managed to stand up, to assuage people’s fears more than anything else… but they wouldn’t let me do too much.  And very quickly, there was an ambulance there… and they of course were very adamant I should sit/lie down.  In fact – once I mentioned the speed that I was probably going… they looked at each other – with this look of “really, he can’t have been going that fast… he’s hardly got a scratch” – but then “have to play it by the book… and the book says that any ‘high-speed’ accident… compulsory stretcher, neck-brace, etc, etc.  The only pain I was reporting was “general sore, bruises all over – but particularly just below my right knee… feels like a pretty solid bruise there”.  So they went and cut my trousers off me… and found a couple of ‘major’ lacerations.  No cuts/tears to the trousers at all (until the scissor-happy ambulance team) – but yeah, two biggish cuts to the leg.    But very little else… thanks to ‘leathers’.  Very happy about wearing the proper gear.

Police came by, did the due diligence… checked I wasn’t drunk, confirmed nobody else was involved at all, etc.  Some chap came to pick up my bike.  I hadn’t had a chance to check it out properly… but had spotted my ‘dashboard’ plate lying on the ground, and a couple of other pieces of metal.  And the helpful motorists had made a point of standing it up, against the lamp post I think, because there was a distinct smell of petrol in the air.  But it was this chap – asking me if I wanted it delivered to my home, or where – when I said “take it somewhere to be fixed” – responded with “that’s not getting fixed mate”, or something similar.  So he took it to some storage facility – I haven’t called them yet to confirm the bad news… will probably do so tomorrow.

Anyway – ages spent in the back of the ambulance, while the medics and policeman did their paperwork.  After which it was explained to me – that again because it was a ‘high speed’ accident – it was ‘the rules’ that we had to “go in blue”… ie: with lights and sirens, etc.  Not entirely sure what the point of that is after sitting doing paperwork for 20 minutes, but – “gotta do it by the book”.  Got taken to Romsford Queen’s Hospital.  Not particularly convenient for me, but it had to do.  And then a long sequence of answering the same questions again and again, having more pieces of clothing cut off me despite my knowing perfectly well I could stand and undress if they really wanted, lying there waiting, same questions, waiting, etc, etc… until neck brace was taken off, so I could at least read while waiting between answering the same questions, and eventually I was taken up to a ward to spend the night, but not allowed to eat… with some vague promises of an operation the next day (to just clean, check, stitch leg).  So – while my phone had battery left – fired off emails to work – telling them I wouldn’t be in the next day.  My first poor communication volley.

Monday morning, woke – feeling considerably more sore and delicate than the previous night – filled out more forms, answered the same questions, paperwork, and waited to hear if I really was going “under the knife”.  And yes, I was.  Then found out that with the forms I’d filled out, including contact details for my Next-Of-Kin… that it might be “by the book” to call my Next-Of-Kin to notify them of any operation under general anaesthetic.  At which point I panicked… I’d been thinking “I’m out of here this afternoon, can go home, then let everybody know what happened from a position of ‘First – I’m fine – but…’”.  But all of a sudden, I had the horrible thought of some nurse not thinking about time differences – calling New Zealand in the middle of the night, announcing they’re from some random English hospital, etc, etc.  So – tried to get ahead of that… sent SMS messages to Angela, letting her know what was going on… but with my “reputation for understatement” – as my employer described it – caused panic anyway.  My only defence is… the entire time I was in hospital, I thought I’d be getting out later that day, so just wanted to get home – where I could deal with worried people from a position of strength.  But as things dragged on, I just dug myself deeper.

Anyway – eventually went under general anaesthetic for the first time.  Wow – that stuff really works.  “Are you feeling drowsy at all?”,  “Nope – not feeling anything”,  “You will in 1 second, bye bye”, “… …”,  wake up back in my ward.  (Not sure if one rambles or anything under anaesthetic, or when coming around – so I concentrated on thinking about niece & nephews as I was going under… so if I did ramble in front of any lovely nurses, it would be as a doting uncle.  Always thinking.)

So – came around some time in the afternoon… starving.  Ate some food.  By this time – my poor communications had also sent my company into a panic… but this had an excellent side effect.  I didn’t want to alert anybody else in London I was in hospital – as it was a ridiculously inconvenient hospital to be stuck in… I mean Romsford, really?  But – one workmate happened to live out that way.  So – they asked if I needed anything brought.  Which was very welcome – so I requested a charger for my cellphone, so at least if people were to be worried, it would be by my own hand – not a sudden silence; and grapefruit juice.  I knew that as soon as I could drink some grapefruit juice – all that ailed me would be cured.  So – John from work – many thanks.  He came out with all I requested (except the juice was pink, not golden… so didn’t quite cure all) – plus some extras: bottle of wine (but no corkscrew, WTF?), chocolate, and a card – implying I had Man-Flu.  And signed by one workmate who thought it was my leaving card (an email had gone out that very morning announcing my imminent departure)… and who had therefore signed “Sorry to hear that your [sic/grrr] leaving us” – which I thought excellent.

What wasn’t fortunate – was the timing of this visit… as it came just after I’d convinced the doctors to have another look at my back… and an X-ray had shown hints of fractures in my spine, or similar.  Nothing hugely serious… the doctor hadn’t prefaced his news with “I’m very sorry, but…” – or anything like that.  I got the impression, we were looking at hairline fractures – with the possibility of my wearing a back brace for a week or two – just to make sure that no nerves got pinched in anything while I move about.  But yeah – John turns up, just as my most recent update is “Oh, yeah, maybe some spinal damage – back brace, waiting for an MRI either tonight or tomorrow… so let the client know I’m likely to be off work 1 more day, yeah?”  Spinal, MRI, back brace… not the best words to be thrown around… and indeed I had a little shiver when the doctor said each one… but as I said – my impression was nothing super-serious… just very minor problems associated with some very scary names.

And, my impressions are usually pretty good.  Annoyance level: was told I had to stay flat… had to eat with my entire bed tilted… until the MRI.  The next morning.  Eventually had the MRI – 45 minutes in a claustrophobic white tube, during which I practised my shallow breathing in preparation for next diving adventure – and after which, the MRI technician’s initial reaction after my exit being bemusement… seemingly confused that anybody would bother scanning me for anything.  “Pfff… sure, some very minor stuff, but… pfff”… as if I’d wasted her time.  Waiting around for another couple of hours – flat on back, until doctor came to confirm that all was good.  And I’d probably be out the door that afternoon.  But also accused me of having “thin bones”.  Which means I can’t claim to be “heavy-boned”.  But overall – good news… immediately texted John-from-work to cancel a possible 2nd care-package.  And then my back-brace arrived… one of the doctors had ordered it yesterday, assuming it was going to be needed.  I told the nice man to take it away quickly, before the doctors saw it had arrived – and thought I “might as well wear it for a week or so, just to be safe”.  Waited for a few more hours, paperwork, etc – before being released.  But – my favourite biking top layers (my sweet Portishead t-shirt, and an Icebreaker which was falling apart anyway) had been cut off me, as had my trousers & boots.  (Nearly all of which – no real reason, just the medics playing it safe… and me going “yeah, what the hell”)  So – I borrowed a pair of hospital pyjamas, and limped out of the hospital, wearing cut open socks/motorcycle boots; pyjama pants, pyjama shirt, and motorcycle jacket… carrying a very scuffed helmet, and a bag.  Found a ‘camping and hiking and skiing and stuff’ store across the road – where I bought shorts and sandals, “no bag necessary thanks – please just cut off the labels” – and then walked to train station, and eventually found my way back to my local pub for Tuesday dinner – just 48 hours late, and looking like… well, not sure what.  And, to work on Wednesday – I don’t know why.  Thinking back, nobody would have complained – and I could really have done with a day sitting in the sun, rather than wincing my way into a suit, and spending a day in the office not really caring about any of the work – when thinking occasionally about how lucky I really was.  (Just not lucky enough to miss the kerb, up onto the grass, leading to an ungainly skid, and then coming to an embarassed halt on the sidewalk)

  • I’ve got 13 stitches in my right leg – over two distinct ‘cuts’ (but trousers were never cut… so not sure how/what they really are from – perhaps metal edges on the bike landing on me?) – due to come out next Monday.
  • Missed my follow-up appointment back at Romford on Thursday – as I didn’t get the appointment letter until Friday.  But have another one now – next Thursday.
  • Also – something about getting an ultrasound of my Thyroid?  The following Thursday.  Thinking back… maybe the doctor didn’t accuse me of having thin bones, but I misheard something about the thyroid.  And doing some quick/basic research – I’ve decided that the doctor is going to do something to kick my thyroid into action, and solve weight-gain, baldness, and moodiness with a single acupuncture treatment.  Hooray!
  • While in the hospital, I spent quite some time going by the name Oscar El… aged 120 years.  My ‘trauma’ name.
  • I’ve had to register with a GP, after avoiding it for over 5 years.
  • Now that my resignation from job has been officially announced… I was meaning to set up the company last week, but then got distracted.  Finally hired an accountant today… have a phone meeting tomorrow to organise setting up the company itself.
  • Still need to buy a mobile phone.  Phone companies here (everywhere?) are annoying.  I don’t like them.
  • I’ll postpone an update on my next motorbike until next time.  (Am I joking?)